New vodka brand features Indiana-themed name and pickle twist

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Hoosa vodka
In naming his new vodka brand Hoosa, T.J. Marsh took inspiration from a debunked theory that suggested that Native Americans referred to corn as “hoosa” and in turn influenced the term “Hoosier.” (Photo provided by Hoosa Vodka)

Indianapolis-based sales engineer T.J. Marsh is launching a vodka brand that takes its name from the discard pile of “What’s a Hoosier?” theories while aiming to be ahead of a salty beverage trend.

Marsh plans to begin production of Hoosa Vodka this month in a 3,000-square-foot facility in the Holy Cross neighborhood.

Hoosa, which will be distributed to bars, restaurants and liquor stores, is named for a bygone idea linked to the origin of the word “Hoosier.”

In a 1902 report published by The Indianapolis News, Jacob P. Dunn wrote that he came across a document that mentioned the state’s 10th governor, Joseph A. Wright (in office from 1849 to 1857), and his claim that Native Americans referred to corn as “hoosa” and that influenced the term “Hoosier” being applied to Indiana residents.

Dunn debunked “hoosa” as a Native American word 121 years ago and a definitive origin story for “Hoosier” still hasn’t emerged today.

Words on the back label of Marsh’s vodka recount the Gov. Wright theory and add the disclaimer: “I don’t know if that is true or not, but what I do know is this is some of the best vodka you will ever drink. Indiana corn, distilled in Indiana.”

Marsh said the purity of his alcoholic beverage, which carries a suggested retail price of $15.99 per 750-milliliter bottle, is undeniable.

“There are a lot of vodkas that have an off flavor, which can mess up a cocktail,” Marsh said. “Mine disappears into the drink. My messaging to bartenders is, ‘My vodka is not going to negatively influence your creation. You can trust it to be a very clean additive.’ ”

Hoosa will be made in a facility in the same building as restaurant Natural State Provisions at 414 Dorman St. Hoosa Vodka has no affiliation with Natural State Provisions, Marsh said.

In addition to a conventional vodka product, Hoosa will offer four variations: Dill Pickle Shot Vodka, Spicy Pickle Shot Vodka, Sweet Pickle Shot Vodka and Sweet Heat Pickle Shot Vodka.

Marsh said he picked up the pickle idea while on vacation in Colorado, where a bartender suggested a “pickle shot” or vodka infused with pickle brine.

The drink was “super refreshing,” said Marsh, who was unfamiliar with this drink or “the pickleback” phenomenon of chasing a shot of Jameson’s Irish whiskey with pickle brine that originated in Brooklyn.

“Everyone was ordering it,” Marsh said of his Colorado experience. “Groups were saying, ‘We need a round of pickle shot.’ I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? This thing is that popular?’ They sell boatloads of it.”

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